June 12, 2011

The Diesel Factor: Europeans are mad or Yanks are wimps

At the conclusion of this weekend's awesome running of 24 Hours at Le Mans, one conclusion was inescapable: Diesel engines rock! As Audi and Peugot battled for leadership in the P1 class during 24 hours of racing--lapping the curvaceous 8.5 mile racetrack at speeds averaging around 145 mph--it was clear that diesel engines are superior to their gasoline counterparts in many ways.

(P1 is open to gas or diesel power, so the fact that diesel-powered cars took the top 5 spots in this classic endurance race is pretty conclusive--although Toyota deserves an honorary mention for powering the Rebellion Racing Lola, the highest finishing petrol-powered P1.)

Mechanically-speaking, victory for the Audi R18 was particularly sweet in this, one of the closest finishes in the history of a race that was first run in 1923. For this was the first Le Mans endurance outing for this Audi engine, a 3.7 litre V6 turbodiesel that produces a whopping 540 bhp and features several design innovations, like a single turbocharger, sitting between the cylinder banks (versus a more traditional twin turbo setup, with one turbocharger per bank of cyclinders).

So diesels rock, and in Europe you can buy just about every model of road car, including Jaguars, Mercs, BMWs, Jeeps and Cadillacs, with a diesel powerplant. But not in America. Why? Because some states, like New York and California, think diesel cars are bad for you.Which leads us back to the headline: Europeans are mad or Yanks are wimps.

In other words, the people who govern New York must believe the Europeans are killing themselves by allowing diesel engines in cars. Californians must regard the steady rise of diesel engines to dominate the family car market in countries like Germany, France and the UK, as sheer madness, a total failure of public health and safety. There is no other way to explain the banning of something that is booming elsewhere in the world.

Maybe California should sue the U.K government for endangering the lives of tourists from California who visit London and other cities that are infested with diesels. Why pick on London? Well now that London uses traffic metering the city center is full of diesel buses and diesel taxicabs (yes, all London cabs are diesel and have been for ages). Or perhaps New Yorkers who attended the last royal wedding can start a class action suit and against the City of London.

Alternatively, the diesel-hating states of America could admit that a ban on diesels is totally absurd and reverse course, thereby ushering in a new era of reduced dependency on foreign oil. Yep, like that is ever going to happen.